Clive Staples Lewis was one of history’s biggest intellectual authors, known to many as ‘Jack’. I chose to write about Jack Lewis because I was raised on the Chronicles of Narnia, which helped fuel my imagination, as well as establish a Christ-like figure in my life. Jack penned some of the century’s greatest books, with Christianity as the focal point. Among those works were The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce: a dream, Mere Christianity, and his autobiography Surprised by Joy. Although these books caused much controversy when published, they influenced positively much more than negatively. Clive Staples Lewis was a daring, captivating author, whose faith as a devout Christian influenced his greatest works, that in turn influenced other people for generations to come. Clive Staples Lewis was born to Flora August Hamilton Lewis and Albert Lewis in Belfast Ireland, on November 29, 1898. His nickname ‘Jack’ came from his childhood dog, Jacksie, who was run over at their home in Ireland. CS Lewis refused to be called anything but ‘Jacksie’, until eventually ‘Jack’ was allowed, which became the name everyone called him by. Growing up, he and his brother, Warren, were surrounded by books, that fueled their imaginations, and the boys created a fantastical world called Boxen. Unfortunately, Jack’s mother died of cancer when Jack was just ten years old. Her death affected him so badly, that it was the main reason for him to eventually convert to atheism. Growing up, his father sent him to different boarding schools, and eventually hired a private tutor to teach Jack. When WWI happened, Jack was not obligated to serve, as he was an Irishman. However, Jack wanted to serve, so he enlisted, and became a soldier of the war. He fought until the Battle of Arras, when on April 15, 1918, he was hit by shrapnel, and hospitalized. He was honourably discharged, and he went back to Oxford to try for his entrance exams. Interestingly enough, Jack failed the algebra part of the exam, but because he had served in the war, he was allowed to pass anyway. During his time at Oxford, his friends, namely J.R.R. Tolkien and Owen Barfield continuously talked to him about theism. He began to see theism in a more positive way. He also read books that challenged his atheism, namely The Everlasting Man by G.K. Chesterton. Because of these circumstances, after he had joined the English faculty at Magdalen College, Jack converted to theism. Two years later, in 1931, he converted to Christianity and joined the Church of England. He immediately changed, and the change reflected in his books, his lectures and other works. In 1933, he published The Pilgrim’s Regress, which was an allegory of his conversion. From there, he went on to publish many more great works, inspired by his faith. Even though his books showed incredible Christian insight, and he was a great man, “Jack did not pretend to be better than anyone else”, and that only succeeded to make Jack the kind of person who strongly influenced those he met (Lewis, 12). It was later on in his life, in his 60’s, that he would meet his wife because of two of his books. Joy Davidman Gresham was an american wife, unhappily married, with two young sons. She read The Screwtape Letters, and The Great Divorce: a Dream, and converted to Christianity after reading them. After corresponding with Jack for two years, she went to visit him in London. While visiting, she found she was in love with Jack, and she also found out her husband had been unfaithful. Joy went back to America, divorced him, and moved to London, taking her two sons, David and Douglas, with her. Jack and Joy had a civil marriage, out of friendship and necessity, so that she and her sons could continue to live in London. When she came close to death due to bone cancer, Jack realized he loved her, and the two had a ‘deathbed’ Christian wedding. They were happily married for close to four years, until the cancer returned. Joy died July 13, 1960. After Joy’s death, Jack continued teaching, writing and attending meetings with the literary society, The Inklings until his death. Clive Staples, ‘Jack’, Lewis died on on November 22, 1963 from renal failure, 1 week short of his 65th birthday.Though he died, his works lived on. Right after Chronicles of Narnia, one of Jack’s most well known books is The Screwtape Letters. This book outlines a series of letters from a demon, Screwtape, to his nephew, Wormwood, on how to divert Christians away from God. Many readers saw themselves in Wormwood’s ‘patient’ and recognized many of the various distractions and temptations that Jack outlined in the letters. Although satirical and thought provoking, Jack enjoyed writing the letters the least out of all his works. Jack stated in an interview that he found writing a viewpoint that depicted Christianity as bad quite tiring. As tiring as he found it however, the payoff was well worth it, as many people found the different viewpoint on Christianity eye opening, and this helped set the stage for Jack as a Christian theologian and author. Mere Christianity is a another popular book that was actually 15 minute messages that Jack spoke on radio during World War II, that he collected and revised in writing. These talks presented Christian ideas, that are tough to grasp, in such a simple and thorough light. The talks boosted morale for many of the men and women working in the war effort. The medium of a talk show helped the message reach far more people that it would have by book. Although not in traditional autobiographical style, Jack also wrote an autobiography called Surprised by Joy: The Shape of my Early Life. Jack said that he wrote it “in answer to requests that he would tell how he passed from Atheism to Christianity” (Lewis, preface). The book talks about his life as a child and growing up, and it allows an image of Jack as a child to properly take place in the reader’s mind, as someone who walked their early life longing for a special joy. Jack specifically wrote the book with the theme of him searching for joy, finding it in his faith as a Christian. Other great works of his included A Grief Observed which he wrote after his wife, Joy, died. Jack had been so devastated by her death, that when he published the book, with the writing so raw and bare, he published it under a pseudonym. The book was so popular, people even recommended it to him as a way of dealing with his grief, not knowing he was the author. He wrote many more books, such as The Great Divorce: a Dream, Till We Have Faces, and one of his last books, Letters to Malcolm: Chiefly on Prayer. As amazing as his books are, and as much as they were positively welcomed, Jack received a lot of negative criticism, even from close friends and colleagues. J.R.R. Tolkien did not care for The Screwtape Letters, which had been dedicated to him and many others missed the satirical aspect of the letters. Many other members from The Inklings felt that Jack’s writings were too evangelical and even embarrassing. He was passed over many times for positions as a professor in Oxford because of his writing, until Magdalene College at Cambridge offered him a position. Jack did not let the criticism affect him though, and he continued writing until his death. Through his writing and talks, Jack had a way of cleverly grasping obscure Christian ideas and viewpoints, and managing to put them into words that make sense. Besides influencing his wife, Joy, Jack also influenced many members of The Inklings, E.M.W. Tillyard, Charles Williams, and so many more. Using his characters in his books like The Great Divorce, The Screwtape Letters, and Letters To Malcolm, he painted different views of Christianity, such as from a demon’s, from condemned souls looking into heaven, or talking to a friend on the subject of intimate dialogue between God and man. Through his talks and sermons, such as Mere Christianity, or The Weight of Glory, Jack used his mouth to speak wisdom and understanding among European people, the war effort, even broadcasting to the coast of America. Although Jack would never get to know just how many people he influenced, so many people would know just how Jack influenced them, for generations to come. His way of writing showed the wonderful effect that faith in God can have on a person and that when it comes to Christianity, “nothing is simply like it”. (Lewis, 236). Though Jack Lewis was not always a Christian, he was arguably among the best Christian authors of the centuries. Some of his greatest additions to the world’s literature were the forefront in opening the eyes of everyone from fellow authors to children growing up in today’s age and society. His writings followed many characters, from demons, to lions, and even himself, in order to better define where he stood as a Christian, and what thoughts all humans should ponder should they be in search of something joyous. Jack did not let criticism deter him from spreading wisdom and insight into Christianity through his works, and his influence ripples throughout history because of it. Clive Staples Lewis was a man who daringly made his mark on time through taking a pen, and taking his faith and putting them into words to touch the minds of young and old, across the rest of time.
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